How to get started with Twitter to get your message out

With the all the buzz about Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, organizations feel pressured into incorporating these tools into their marketing arsenal. Non-profits specially are interested in leveraging social networks as cost effective sources of volunteers and supporters and are seeking ways to convert followers to funders and donors. All of them are looking for guidance in getting started.

Based on my experience working with a number of startups, and from discussions with several others, I have compiled a quick list of do’s and don’ts that I hope will provide some guidelines to help you get started.

Before you can start tweeting, you need to start building your network. Internet pioneer Bob Metcalfe noted that the value of a network increased as the square of the number of nodes. In other words, the impact of your message increases even faster the more followers you have. So how do you start getting followers?

  • Build your Twitter network from your existing connections. Most people and organizations already had vibrant social networks even before Twitter came around –  they just existed in different formats. Look up your email contacts, your Facebook friends, your interest groups and add those contacts to the people you follow on Twitter.
  • Let others find you. Add yourself to as many of the online Twitter directories to advertise your interests. WeFollow is a good source. Add yourself to their directory by selecting areas that are relevant to your field. You can also look up their directory and find a list of top Twitter users in your interest area and follow them. A good compilation of other directory sources for Twitter can be found in this article on CNET, “14 Twitter directories to find new friends
  • Find others who share your interests. Find areas you are passionate about or are core to your business and find as many key people in that domain and follow them. The more people you follow, the more likely they will follow you also.
  • Make sure you setup your Twitter Bio – this is your ‘calling card’. Go to your Twitter Settings and under the ‘Profile’ tab, fill in your URL and a brief bio. This is your online ‘calling card’ and is something most people scan first before deciding on whether to follow you. It is key to attracting more followers. Over 20% of twitter users do not have a bio. A blank bio will not motivate a potential follower to follow you. Make sure to use keywords in your bio that highlight your main areas of interest.

 OK, so you have a list of people that you are following on Twitter, now what? You need to start tweeting. More importantly, you need to create ‘value’ on the Twitter network that others appreciate, that motivates them to follow you and that gets them to rebroadcast what you are saying. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin broadcasting your thoughts into the ether.

  • Tweet on topic and regularly. You really need to tweet regularly to keep people’s interest. You should also always try to stay on topic. A couple of tweets a day on pertinent topics of interest in your field will keep you going. You don’t have to dredge up original stuff for every tweet. In fact, if you follow a number of interesting people, just retweeting their posts will both show them you are interested in what they are saying and will also get more people listening to you.
  • Keep the tone professional. Try not to inject too much personal stuff if you are building a professional profile online. Some personal color commentary every now and then provides a human touch to your tweets. However going overboard with intimate personal details or a play by play description of your visit to the Registry doesn’t do much in building a professional presence online.
  • Reinforce each other. If you see an item of interest make sure you retweet it. Chances are the original tweeter will recognize you as someone interested in their content and start paying more attention to your tweets. Try to add a personal comment when you retweet to show you are engaged and interested. This also increases the probability that it will be repeated by your followers.
  • Send a few direct messages to people that you follow – even if they are strangers. Make a comment on their tweets thru a direct message to show them you care. Twitter has made communication more intimate and accessible. People who would normally ignore your emails or phone calls, will readily respond to a direct message from you or when you reply to one of their tweets. Once you get someone’s attention, chances are that they will return the favor and pay more attention to what you are saying.
  • Online marketing is relationship building – don’t just push product, provide content. People have to get to know you. If your tweets are only about your product or company, it will turn people off as they will think you are just interested in pushing product. It is the online equivalent of the obnoxious telemarketer at dinnertime selling you something. If you provide regular, interesting and relevant information in your area of interest, it will keep people engaged. When you say something about your company or product, they are more likely to listen.
  • Use relevant hashtags to get visibility. Hashtags make it easier for people to track topics of interest. Power Twitter users monitor online “conversations” by following tweets with key hashtags. And you really want to get to those power users as they are typically key nodes in the network and serve as viral repeaters with tremendous potential for amplifying your message. “Hashtag Hootenanny: Why I like Twitter hashtags” is an interesting article on using hashtags.

Recently Scott Kirsner, who writes regularly about innovation and technology for the Boston Globe, also came up with his list for attracting a following. I have listed it briefly below and you can read his entire article “Ten tips for attracting a following on Twitter” for complete details.

  1. Set up your profile.
  2. Put your Twitter “handle’’ everywhere.
  3. Share information; avoid self-promotion.
  4. Re-tweet other people’s messages.
  5. Leverage Twitter users you know.
  6. Pick people or businesses to follow.
  7. Find people who are already talking about you.
  8. Be consistent.
  9. At gatherings, be a reporter.
  10. Dangle incentives.

I hope this helps you get off and tweeting and look forward to seeing you in the Twitterverse. You can follow me online at http://twitter.com/Rajmelville I also look forward to hearing from you about tips and tricks that worked for you. Feel free to send me a message on Twitter! Happy Tweeting.

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2 responses to “How to get started with Twitter to get your message out

  1. A great handbook for nonprofits starting on Twitter can be found on John Haydon’s site. John has been advising nonprofits with their online strategy and has plentitude of other ideas. His site is http://johnhaydon.com/

    The Twitter Jumpstart guide for nonprofits is at

    http://johnhaydon.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/twitter-jump-start-free-download-version-4.pdf

  2. Pingback: Increase your nonprofit’s web marketing impact in 11 simple steps | The Social Ecosystem

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